Gay parents in our community can probably understand what I am about to say. Growing up and realizing we are different is one thing. But being accepted is something entirely different, especially by our family members. If you are experiencing this, my hope is that you stay steadfast in your dream to becoming independently secure with who you truly are. Once you do that, the rest will fall into place.
I found myself dreaming at night having a life which was acceptable, admired and respected. I grew up in the South and it was terribly hard at times. I had a disgusting, homophobic and abusive father, who did polar opposite of what loving dads are supposed to do. I was raised in the church. I sang in the choir all of my childhood. I created friends and found some of my talents because of church. But unfortunately, I also found some of my deepest insecurities.
Years went by and I graduated high school and knew in my heart it was time to leave Mississippi. I loved my family, but I needed to find myself without the judgement of anyone else. I needed to leave the nest built in the ‘Pine Belt’ and either fly or fall.
As life would have it, I did fly. I soared. I became who I needed to be. Every day went by, I grew more confident in who I was and who I wanted to become. I created long lasting relationships which I still have to this day. Those friends allowed me to accept who I truly was, working my way from the inside out. I was making great headway- and then our whole world stopped in it’s tracks.
Katrina ripped through all of our lives down here in the south. And it took years to recover. I finally was able to go back to New Orleans and find a new job. I found a job at a nigh club on Bourbon street and stepped into the back office. And there, in front of me he sat filling out a new hire work form. In the split second of time- it was like time had stopped. All of sudden the bass from the dance floor silenced. All I could hear and feel was the sound of my heart beating out of my chest. He looked up and in that very moment, our eyes met for the first time. I can still to this day smell the stale cigarette smoke from the office ashtray. I remember what the room looked like. I remember what we both were wearing. I absolutely couldn’t look away. I was frozen in time. I know in this very situation this is what I had always prayed for. This was the boy who was going to save me. He was my white knight riding in to rescue me.
So, spending so many nights in the club meant we also saw so many sunrises. Once the sun came up we would dart out of the bar and cover ourselves like a Bram Stoker character from ‘Dracula.’ We would run to his old Volvo wagon and quickly drive out of the French Quarter. He was so spontaneous and I loved it.
December quickly came and as excited as I was, I still was very nervous. We packed my car and put all of the gifts in the back. Off we went to my family’s for a Mississippi Christmas.
My mom had been outspoken about my life in the beginning. When I came out, she didn’t hesitate to bring out the Bible and plead for me to not be gay as her tears fell from her eyes. As months rolled into years, our relationship recovered. She had always been one of my best friends so the tension and havoc of my coming out had on our relationship was very hard to say the least.
It was the Christmas of 2006 and we pulled up to my childhood home in Oak Grove, Mississippi. She came out of the house with the biggest smile as she waved at us both. She hugged me so tight. To this day, it is still so vivid. I was expecting her to wave and smile at Douglas. But, she walked over to him and gave him the tightest hug ever. I saw Douglas’ face as she hugged and his eyes were squeezed so tight with the biggest smile on his face. My mom released her mama bear hug and wiped tears from her eyes and said, ‘Alright, enough of this. Let’s unload the car.’
I knew as we trekked back and forth unloading the car; this would truly be an unforgettable Christmas. All of the anxiety I had up until this moment was just hindering me to allow my self the opportunity to have personal life experiences and growth.
That first Christmas was so and will always be so special to me. Our family has had its share of painful times, so to have the chance to create joyful and happy memories were so important; especially in the beginning. That night, as we were all around the Christmas tree I could see the gifts and stockings from me and my sister. I couldn’t help but think of all the Christmases before growing up.
In that moment I was just so happy to be where I was, where I had been and to be surrounded by the love that was there. My mom came into the room and said, ‘I know you may not like it, but I had to find something.’ She pulled out a plastic Walgreen’s bag with Douglas’ name written at the top of it. She said, ‘You cannot come into this house without having some sort of a stocking for Santa to fill.’ I knew right then this was the beginning of the rest of our lives.